Sports Links between Hochsauerland and West Lothian

by Charlie Raeburn

8th august 1986; 40 german athletics reached the end of their 1,000 run from Hochsauerland when they were officially welcomed to West Lothian with a civic reception in council headquarters by district council convener Dominic Mc Cauley

8th august 1986; 40 german athletics reached the end of their 1,000 run from Hochsauerland when they were officially welcomed to West Lothian with a civic reception in council headquarters by district council convener Dominic Mc Cauley

On a visit to West Lothian in September 2004, Herr  Winfried Stork (CEO Hochauerlandkreis) invited Charlie Raeburn (Sport and Recreation Manager, West Lothian Council) to visit Germany in December 2004, to discuss possible future sports links between Hochsauerland and West Lothian.

The first venture was a weekend study tour by a small delega-tion of offcers from both West Lothian Council and from sportscotland undertook a detailed tour of Hochsauerland  in June 2005 Issues and practices considered included:

  • Participation issues for sport and physical activity;
  • Community Sports Clubs
  • Access to school facilities by sports clubs
  • Coach Education
  • Potential links for the future of HSK/WLC sporting links.

As immediate actions from this visit:

  • A study tour for a small delegation from Hochsauerland visited West Lothian in June 2006 to consider these sports options.
  • West Lothian’s swimming clubs combined their efforts to participate in the annual SV Neptun “open ‘Interna­tionales Schwimmfest’ being staged in the outdoor pool  in Arnsberg­Neheim from 2­5 June 2006.

Twenty five young swimmers aged 12-15 from the various West Lothian clubs, travelled to Germany with four swimming coaches and a team manager. Competing as  West Lothian Swim Team, this first visit proved to be the catalyst for some very positive change amongst the seven clubs and the wider swimming community..

Menu (specially for the “Turnverein Arnsberg”)

Menu (specially for the “Turnverein Arnsberg”)

Although the group were only able to stay for two days of the competition, the positive experiences gained of the SV Neptun event, and in particular of combining the efforts and expertise of all seven clubs and Sarah Pryde of West Lothian Sport and Recreation Services to prepare and facilitate the trip has led to the establishment of what is now known as Swim West Lothian.  The positive experiences shared by the swimmers, coaches and offcials in Germany marked a change in culture in West Lothian with the emergence of one vision, that through coopera­tion and cohesion West Lothian had the capacity to support professional coaching for the elite swimmers in West Lothian whilst still retaining the swimming clubs local roots and identities.

The subsequent visits of Swim West Lothian to participate in the SV Neptun meet in 2008, in 2010 and again in the 2011 demonstrated the improved quality of swimming abi­lities of the West Lothian swimming community.   Having narrowly missed out on the Top Club award in 2010, Swim West Lothian were eager to make sure that this year we brought the trophy home to Scotland, competing with their largest squad to date; six Team Staff and 46 swimmers aged 11 to 17 years.

Swim West Lothian and SV Neptun are currently discussing the possibility of a visit to West Lothian in 2012. There are also considerations being discussed about improving the links between individual clubs of Hochsauerland and West Lothian and maybe also the Masters (veteran swimmers).  It is also recognised that time needs to be found to extend the links beyond simply swimming competition to social and cultural experiences.

Possible future projects include:

  1. Annual/Biannual event, which might involve a range of  5 sports or activities.  These activities might rotate to allow clubs to develop their own links.
  2. Joint projects – e.g. developing “diversionary activity” programmes for vulnerable youngsters.
  3. Joint Seminars: Coach Education, Club Development, Walk Leaders.

Concerns clearly include the need to at least part fund some of these activities.